Northern Spy

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Malus domestica 'Northern Spy'
Freshly picked Northern Spy apples, Canada
Cultivar 'Northern Spy'
Origin United States Rochester, New York, 1840s[1]

The Northern Spy, sometimes known as "Northern Spie" or "Northern Pie Apple" is a cultivar of domesticated apple native to the Northern East Coast of the United States and parts of Michigan and Ontario. It is popular in upstate New York.


Skin color is a green ground, flushed with red stripes where not shaded, and it produces fairly late in the season (late October and beyond). The white flesh is juicy, crisp and mildly sweet with a rich, aromatic subacid flavor, noted for high vitamin C content. Its characteristic flavor is more tart than most popular varieties, and its flesh is harder/crunchier than most, with a thin skin.


It is commonly used for desserts and pies, but is also used for juices and cider. Further, the Northern Spy is also an excellent apple for storage, as it tends to last longer due to late maturation.


The Northern Spy apple tree is known for taking as much as a decade to bear fruit unless grafted to a non-standard rootstock, while the native Spy root makes an excellent stock for grafting other varieties to a standard size tree. It was discovered around 1800 in East Bloomfield, New York, south of Rochester, New York, as surviving sprouts of a seedling that had died and was cultivated with stock brought in from Connecticut. The Wagener apple is believed to be one of its forebears. It fell somewhat out of favor due to its dull coloration, irregular shape, tendency of the thin skin to allow bruising, and lack of disease resistance, specifically subject to bitter pit and blossom fireblight, but resistant to woolly aphid and somewhat to scab. It is not widely available at retail outside its growing regions but still serves as an important processing apple in those areas.

A Northern Spy apple tree figures in the poem "Conrad Siever" in Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, and in the poetry of Chase Twichell, whose first book "Northern Spy" was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1981.


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